Monday, May 4, 2015

The Dream Lover: The Unconventional Personal Life of George Sand

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg has written a lush historical novel based on the sensuous Parisian life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand—which is perfect for readers of Nancy Horan and Elizabeth Gilbert.

At the beginning of this powerful novel, we meet Aurore Dupin as she is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family’s estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle.

Paris in the nineteenth century comes vividly alive, illuminated by the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of a woman who defied the confines of society. Sand’s many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, she fights to overcome heartbreak and prejudice, failure and loss. Though considered the most gifted genius of her time, she works to reconcile the pain of her childhood, of disturbing relationships with her mother and daughter, and of her intimacies with women and men. Will the life she longs for always be just out of reach—a dream?

Brilliantly written in luminous prose, and with remarkable insights into the heart and mind of a literary force, The Dream Lover tells the unforgettable story of a courageous, irresistible woman.

Since the life of George Sand has always interested me, this is the second novel about her life that I'm reviewing for Book Babe.  The first was The Romances of George Sand by Anna Faktorovich.  That review was What's Really Interesting About George Sand?  I also interviewed Anna Faktorovich on the subject of Why Do We Need A Novel About George Sand?  I am still fascinated by George Sand. So I jumped on the opportunity to read and review The Dream Lover.  I downloaded my copy from Net Galley and this is my honest review.

 What I missed most in Faktorovich's book was character and relationship development.  It was told in third person narrative with relatively few character scenes or dialogue. Elizabeth Berg's novel is primarily focused on character and relationships.   In The Dream Lover we get tight character focus and complex motivations.  Berg does leap backward and forward in time, but each section is clearly labeled with time and place identified.  Since I already knew the events of George Sand's life, I had no trouble with this time traveling technique, but I also didn't see how the book benefited from it either.

I also feel that I didn't really learn anything about George Sand or gain any additional insight into her life from Berg's novel.  Her choices about what to include in her book confirmed the usual view of George Sand.  There were no surprises for me.   This was a book about her unconventional lifestyle, her difficult family relationships and her romances with many important men of the period.  Berg apparently chose not to believe that she learned enough about medicine from the physician who was her tutor to assist him in surgery, or that she took over his practice after his death.  She mentions it as an unsubstantiated rumor that was intended to destroy Sand's reputation.  Faktorovich did choose to believe it.  This was one of my favorite aspects of Faktorovich's novel.  As a 21st century reader, George Sand's embryonic medical career enhances her reputation for me.   Another aspect of George Sand's life that was barely mentioned by Berg, but was emphasized by Faktorovich was her political activities.

 It comes down to the title of my review of Faktorovich's book.  What is really interesting about George Sand?  Is it really her personal life?  Berg only mentions Sand's novels when they were based on one of her real life relationships.  Readers might think that Sand's literary specialization was the Roman à clef.  Yet she wrote a great deal about political issues and devoted much of her life to political causes.  You'd never know this from The Dream Lover.  I think that my ideal George Sand novel would meld Berg's beautiful writing and nuanced characterization with the thematic focus of Faktorovich.


About Elizabeth Berg
authElizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels, including Tapestry of Fortunes, The Last Time I Saw You, Home Safe, The Year of Pleasures,and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, as well as two collections of short stories and two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award, and The Pull of the Moon was adapted into a play. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library. She is a popular speaker at venues around the country, and her work has been translated into twenty-seven languages. She is the founder of Writing Matters, a reading series designed to serve author, audience, and community. She divides her time between Chicago and San Francisco.

Elizabeth Berg’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, April 13th: Reading Reality

Monday, April 13th: Books on the Table

Tuesday, April 14th: Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 15th: History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, April 20th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, April 20th: Bookchickdi

Tuesday, April 21st: Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, April 21st: The Novel Life

Wednesday, April 22nd: Books on the TableBookstore Event post

Wednesday, April 22nd: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, April 23rd: Unabridged Chick – author Q&A

Monday, April 27th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, April 28th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, April 29th: Bibliotica

Thursday, April 30th: Life is Story

Friday, May 1st: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Monday, May 4th: Laura’s Reviews

Monday, May 4th: Book Babe

Wednesday, May 6th: Unshelfish

Monday, May 11th: Broken Teepee

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